Project Managers & Personality Preference Types

In our many years of working with Project Managers, we’ve heard time and time again how challenging it can be to navigate personality preferences when working with diverse teams. Everyone on a team has a personality preference that works best with their own styles. In other words, it is your job as the PM to organize and lead this team, so you better be prepared for the diversity.

There is no question that technical skills are a requirement for good project management. But to be a well-rounded Project Manager, one needs to master soft skills as well. Soft skills are interpersonal (people) skills. These are much harder to define and evaluate. Soft skills include communication skills, listening skills, and empathy, among others.

The #1 Soft Skill for a Project Manager

Certainly, it has to be communication. Without efficient communication, your project will suffer. Your relationship with your team, stakeholders and sponsors are critical to the projects success. If poor communication tarnishes these relationships. As a result, you are putting your project at risk for success. However, successful communication is a lot easier said than done. 

Have you ever wondered why the same statement resonates differently between two people? Something that may help you understand these differences is the ability to identify personality preference types.

One approach is based on a personality typology the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory, developed by Carl Jung. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment. In developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [instrument], the aim of Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, was to make the insights of type theory accessible to individuals and groups. They addressed the two related goals in the developments and application of the MBTI instrument:

  1. The identification of basic preferences of each of the four dichotomies specified or implicit in Jung’s theory.
  2. The identification and description of the 16 distinctive personality types that result from the interactions among the preferences.

These personality preference profiles are:




Where attention is focused

Needs to talk, focus is usually on the outer world of people and things Needs to think, focus is usually on the inner world of ideas and impressions



Way information is gathered

Wants details, they process in a very linear fashion, focus is on the now and concrete facts Wants “the big picture”, they process in a very non-linear fashion, focus is on the future and possibilities



Way decisions are made

Focused on task, base decisions on logic Focused on relationship, base decisions on values



How the outer world is dealt with

Wants a plan and an organized approach Comfortable with more spontaneity  and open to options


Of course, no type of categorization is 100% one way or the other all the time. But by being aware of the differences in how people obtain information, and process information, communication can be tailored to be more effective. So, by observing people and how they communicate, you can begin to identify where they may fall within these preferences.  For example, if you notice someone speaking with more concrete facts, they probably have a preference for Sensing. You know that they understand things better if they are presented in a linear and detailed fashion. Likewise, if someone is quiet and contemplative, they most likely have a preference for being Introverted. Subsequently, you can adjust and not expect a quick reaction as they will need some time to think about what you said and process internally.

The Importance of Awareness

The flip side of observing the possible preferences of others is that you must be aware of your own communication style and preferences. So, as a Project Manager, you must develop the skills necessary to modify your communication style to bring out the best in your team and ensure success on a team level and for the entire project. Above all, understanding how your individual preferences influence the culture in which everyone operates is the key to good leadership.

If you are interested in seeing where you may score along these personality preferences, you can take a free online test at and choose the Jung Typology Test. It will be very enlightening!